I’m debating whether or not to get a smart phone. Do I really need one – or do I just want to have one? Well, either way, which one do I get? It’s not a simple decision, because the thing is going to have to last a couple of years, and the technology is advancing so quickly that no matter which phone I choose, there is likely to be a better one available before I’m out the door. That’s the way it is with consumer electronics.
And increasingly, that’s the way it is with cars. It’s almost a cliché now to say that cars are fast becoming connected consumer electronics devices. Take the new Audi a8, for example. When Audi and its supplier, Qualcomm, wanted to introduce their connected car, they showed it at the GSMA Mobile World Congress – a show for smart phones.
It actually sounds pretty neat, with a Mobile Media Interface Plus navigation system that provides UMTS connectivity, so drivers can talk on the phone and access data simultaneously. Passengers can also connect their Wi-Fi devices because the system functions as a Wi-Fi hotspot – and it features Google Earth. I’ve not seen the demo, but combining Google Earth with a detailed street atlas sounds quite impressive – also potentially distracting, but I’m sure that Audi has taken that into account.
What will please the customer most? What features will be most effective at differentiating a vehicle from its competition? Which car to buy? Audi offers Google Earth, and this week Ford announced an enhancement to its navigation system for 2011 vehicles – High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane routing. It may seem like a simple thing, but I can imagine drivers with passengers appreciating it, especially in unfamiliar territory.
“We’ve worked so hard to make sure our navigation system is not only extremely helpful, but exceptionally intuitive,” says Jim Buczkowski, Ford’s director, Global Electrical and Electronics Systems Engineering. “We have added services and features that will help our customers access exactly the information they need while they’re on the go.” The pace of technology quickens. Stay tuned. Oh, and Ford is also adding HD Radio.